Chapter 1

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Theo  |  Sometime in the past

MARCO AND I grew up together. We've known each other since we were in diapers. Almost every picture I have of me from my younger days has him in it. He's my best friend, and there's nothing I wouldn't do for him. They say blood is thicker than water, but that doesn't apply to us. That's the stupidest fucking statement I've ever heard in my life. He's the closest thing to a brother I've ever had.

But when he was five, he had a febrile seizure. Being that I was only five, I don't remember much, but we were playing together. I just remember him dropping to the ground in front of me. His body convulsing. My mom, who's a nurse, turning him on his side and blood pouring from the side of his face because he'd busted his face up when he fell from the seizure. He still has a scar from the stitches today.

But the scar wasn't the only lasting effect, the only reminder of that day. The seizure lasted so long that it caused a small amount of brain damage. He's still highly functional, but just a little bit slow. He comes across as just a tad off.

I've never really checked Marco out, but the girls don't seem to care about what he's lacking upstairs because I've seen what he's got downstairs, and damn, he's more than made up for any inadequacies. But even before a girl ever got in his pants, they'd go on and on about his eyes. How dreamy and blue they are, how much they love guys with dark features and light eyes. Blah, blah, fucking blah.

But I know Marco. I know more than just his superficial features. I can see past all that. Perhaps, I'd go so far as to say I even know him better than he knows himself.

Lately, not that you'd be able to tell it, he's a nice guy deep down. He just hasn't made the smartest decisions. It started when we got to high school, when his parents decided to move across town, which put him in a different school district. That meant I couldn't keep an eye on him, make sure he made good choices like I'd always done for him—look out for him like big brothers do—a role I always took extremely serious.

The thing is, though, he's managed to find himself in a heap of trouble. And his good looks and thick cock won't be able to get him out of his current predicament. So who do little brothers call for help when they are about to be screwed over? Fucking six foot six big brothers.

So, that's how I ended up with a membership to this gym on the other side of town even though I have everything I need in my apartment. This isn't just this place, either. I had to get a damn virtual office in this building to even be able to be eligible to join. It's exclusive to the people who work in this high-rise. Marco owes me big time for this shit. It's a good thing I can work anywhere. It just sucks ass that I don't need to be flushing money down the toilet on rent space and a gym membership I don't even need to try to bail him out of trouble. And I have to dress up every day in a suit to try to look the part of the sexy, rich CEO that I am. I shrug. I mean, I'm sexy and money isn't an issue for me.

What Marco doesn't have in brains, I more than make up for. Every penny I've made has gone into some kind of investment. My gift is knowing when and where to move funds to get the biggest profit margins. I don't really need to dress up most days, nor do I need to leave my apartment unless I have a meeting with someone. I just sit behind a computer and trade. But because of Marco, I've got to put on this front of being some kind of big wig. I hate being fucking fake. And I really hate situations that could potentially get us both killed. The good news is I probably have enough money to get him out of whatever trouble he's in, and I just need to get in and find out the whole deal. Make sure I understand everything he's done. Make sure it's not worse than he thinks. Once I get everything worked out, I'll pay them off, and it'll all be fine.

Swiping my keycard for entry to the gym, I swallow as I enter, tugging on the strap of the duffle hanging over my shoulder. Scanning the room, I pick the fucker out that Marco described to me in no time. He's standing over a bench press spotting a girl who has her legs spread. Shaking my head, I head to the locker room to change out of my stupid suit into my sweats. From what I can tell, the prick doesn't even have a bead of sweat dripping from his blond buzz cut hair.


I CHANGED QUICKLY, hoping he wouldn't leave that fast. Although I am sure he isn't going anywhere other than maybe to a shower or in here to get his grimy hands on her ass. I head back out to the gym floor, but he's no longer with her. Instead, he's with a tattoo covered guy whose long black hair is pulled back in a ponytail. They're on the treadmill. So, I position myself on the equipment close enough to be able to hear his conversation.

Giving them a curt smile, I set the speed to a low warm-up level so I can hear. Damn, it's going to be hard to listen to them once I turn this thing up and start running. But I'm going to look like a fucking pussy if I'm actually just walking on it like they are. And there's no way in hell that's ever going to happen.

"So, what are you doing about the situation?" tattoo guy asks. Fuck yeah. This is what I'm talking about. I'll take a little more warm-up time. I stretch my neck. In their direction. A lot. Then, the other way so it's not too obvious I'm trying to listen in before increasing the speed a little.

"What Jules?" He shrugs. "I mean, I had to put a ring on it so she wouldn't get suspicious. But I plan on still taking any hot pieces of ass I can get. Did you see that spitfire redhead I was just with a second ago?" Fucking asshole needs to speed up his treadmill if he wants to ever stand a chance with the redhead and get rid of his beer gut. My hands squeeze the handle bar, and it takes everything in me not to make some snide remark to him. I don't even know this Jules chick, but I already feel terrible for her. Even if I didn't know what Marco had already told me, five minutes in, and I already want to disfigure this asshole. Funny enough, I'm not even an aggressive person. But when someone threatens the people I love, consider that my trigger. Forgetting I'm supposed to be actually exercising, I push the button to increase the speed a couple of times hoping to relieve some of the stress this fucker is causing me.

Tattoo guy sighs. "That's not what I was talking about, Charlie, and you know it."

"I'm letting her take the fall. I can't go down for it."

And with that, I push the speed up to five and start to sprint. My brows furrow. Hmm. Maybe I should go meet this Jules chick. Maybe she could be the key to helping me figure out what's going on, help me get Marco out of this.

Maybe I could show her what a real man is, show her what she deserves. That it's not Charlie. Either way she's going to get hurt. Either way she's going to get screwed over. She might as well at least thoroughly enjoy it.

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